Solely concentrating on my son's needs, my own have taken a back seat. As a mum, I felt that I could do it, that I was fine, but I wasn’t fully aware of how caring was impacting my wellbeing.
One day I visited my GP on a particularly hard day and broke down in tears. The doctor asked me if I had heard of Carers First and gave me a leaflet; which then sat on my fridge for months.
After a few emails back and forth, enquiring about events and volunteering opportunities, I eventually agreed to have a Carers Assessment.
I didn’t realise what the service was or how it could help, but through it, Carers First helped me to step outside of my caring role and see how the situation was affecting my mental health. They helped me secure the Carers Allowance, which I didn't know was a possibility. I used it to join the gym, to take some time for myself, something that since giving up my job to look after Toby, I didn’t feel I could justify financially.
Being able to do that was fantastic, I had always loved exercising and having some time for myself made me feel so much better.
Carers First also informed me of voluntary opportunities at the charity and invited me to be part of their Carers Strategy Group. This has empowered me and helped to restore my confidence. After giving up my job to look after Toby, I’ve sometimes thought 'who am I now?'. Being part of something, giving my input and perspective, has given me back my identity. I have found my voice again and feel listened to.
Carers First has made me feel valued and recognised for what I do and through volunteering, I feel like I am doing something to help others. It has given me a reason to get back out there, to believe in myself. They also told me about Anglian Water’s Priority Services Register. It’s nice to have that extra support if I need it.